(FILES) In this file photo taken on March 6, 2020, a young man wearing a protective mask as a measure of protection against the coronavirus COVID-19, walks in front of the Dome of the Rock mosque inside the al-Aqsa compound in the Old City of Jerusalem, ahead of the Friday prayers. - The Islamic Waqf authority overseeing Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem announced on March 15 that Aqsa complex, Islam's third holiest site, will before worshippers as a precaution against COVID-19 coronavirus disease, while adding that outdoor prayers will still be allowed. (Photo by Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)

Virus shuts Jerusalem’s Temple Mount

The Islamic authority in charge of Jerusalem’s highly sensitive holy site Temple Mount, or Haram al-Sharif, has announced it will completely close the site for prayers until further notice to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

In a statement on Sunday, the Waqf called on Muslim worshippers “to understand the legitimate health reasons” for its decision, and urged them to pray in their homes.

In an extremely rare measure, al-Aqsa Mosque and the adjacent Dome of the Rock, which are both housed within the holy compound, were closed on Sunday last week until further notice. But prayers in the large, open-air courtyard around the two chapels continued.

Starting from Monday, the courtyard would now be closed as well. Guards and other employees would continue their work.

The disputed, elevated platform in Jerusalem’s historic walled Old City also contains the remnants of the Jewish Biblical Temple. It is the holiest site in Judaism.

Revered by Muslims as the spot from where their Prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven, it is the third-holiest site in Islam.

Read the article in The Daily Telegraph.